This section is written by
Gorana Arnaud
Psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, hypnotherapist

Registered with the local health authority (Agence Régionale de Santé) ADELI number 34 00 0565 1

I work with adults, adolescents and couples

Telephone: 06 89 45 32 90    Email: gorana.arnaud@gmail.com

Website: www.gorana-psy-montpellier.com

 
Gorana's page is HERE on Counselling In France:

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ANXIETY

Eliminating anxiety is extremely rewarding work. When the brain and body are no longer in “fight or flight” anxious mode, an incredible amount of energy is freed up, energy that can be used to laugh, play, create, work, love, and simply enjoy life.

Because I have developed a specialty in treating anxiety, I often get referrals from other counsellors for very severe cases. For example, a typical patient might say: “I ended up in the emergency ward last night. My wife had to drive me. I thought it was a heart attack, but was told it was just anxiety.” Or “I am on more Xanax than it would take to kill a horse. But not only is it not working, I now feel too stoned to be able to concentrate at work. You are my last hope.” “Ok now, don’t worry”, I say, “You’ve come to the right place. Would you like to try a relaxation technique which stems from hypnotherapy?” At this point the patient is seized by complete wide-eyed terror, but usually acquiesces with a mumbling “Well, I am pretty desperate so I guess there’s not much to lose.”

The setup is fairly simple: the patient, in a reclined position, closes his eyes and lets the therapist’s soothing voice and skilled manoeuvres transport him elsewhere, to a place that is anxiety-free. The neuro-scientific reasoning behind this is straightforward- in order to drive anxious thoughts out of the brain, we must saturate the synapses by filling the brain with positive suggestions. Thus the patient can allow himself to calm down and get over the immediate crisis.

This part of therapy is very relaxing and fun; and the results are incredibly quick. In my own practice I have often been astounded by the speed at which anxiety is tamed in only one or two hypnotherapy or mindfulness sessions, as opposed to traditional talk-therapy.

The therapist will not only administer these techniques (i.e. relaxation, mindfulness techniques and/or hypnosis) to the patient, but will teach him how to do these techniques on her own, at home, so he is independent and does not need the therapist, and can thus gain control over the anxiety attack if and when it may arise. In many cases, having a sword to slay the monster with, and knowing how to use the sword, metaphorically speaking, is enough to keep the monster at bay.
Once the immediate crisis is over, a more psychoanalytical, or psychodynamic approach takes place. In plain English this means= we just talk. In the safe setting of a therapist’s office that is perceived as a strong and trustworthy cocoon, we can gradually begin to explore the underlying roots of anxiety. How quickly this is done depends on the skill and experience of the therapist, but most importantly on the rapport between therapist and patient. There must be an intuitive feeling of safety, understanding and trust.

The underlying roots of anxiety may stem from an earlier traumatic experience, or from childhood. Yet this doesn’t mean that “it’s all your mother’s fault” or that we need to engage in some voodoo-like rebirth or chakra-rebalancing via past lives ritual. I firmly believe that in order to heal our deepest wounds, talk therapy is more than enough, and remains the best remedy to date. Yet, even though we may get an intellectual grasp of the causes of our anxiety in two or three sessions, getting to the point where we are truly anxiety-free emotionally and physiologically may take a little longer.
I often tell my patients: “Only children are scared. Adults don’t suffer from anxiety.” Adults assess a situation, and make choices. A child often reaches a point where he is painfully aware of the menacing world all around, and the future which is at best uncertain. An adult is tall and strong. Adults must learn to handle disappointments in life, and let go of unrealistic expectations, but an adult is in control. An adult knows that every action is a choice, and that every action has its consequence. An adult sleeps well, has a healthy appetite, and is full of lust for life, looking forward to every hour of every new day.

Yet, the journey from being a child to being fully an adult is a lifelong journey, and biological age is no indication of maturity. This is excellent news, because it means we can learn new skills at any age. After successful completion of therapy, we should get to a point where we consider anxiety as our best friend- a kind of barometer or signal that tells us what to watch out for, when to slow down, and how best to trust our intuition and ultimately ourselves. The first turning point in therapy comes when the patient says: “Huh. I never saw things that way before.” Yet the real triumph comes when he says: “Wow. Had I not been so exhausted and pushed up against the wall by all this anxiety, I would’ve never asked for help, and would’ve never realised how strong I really was. I have the confidence to really go after my dreams now.” And the huge beaming smile on their faces is the therapist’s best reward.

 

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ADOPTION

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when working with adoption is attachment issues. However, even though parents and therapists must be aware of and educated about attachment styles and difficulties, it is primordial to stress that the adoptee child or adult does not suffer from “attachment disorder”. She suffers from full-blown, all-out PTSD. The war veteran “ain’t got nothin’ on her”.

I am not good enough for Mummy to keep me. I was rejected, given away. And because it happened once, I have no guarantee it won’t happen again.” This is the core belief of an adoptee, and persists until, and if, she has children of her own.

So, if you are the parent, the partner, or even the therapist: expect and be prepared for not just anger; be prepared for rage. “You say you care about me, you talk about “love”… What the f*#k does that actually mean? Oh wait I know: my own mother loved me enough to give me away!!”

Yet this rage might be so repressed that it is difficult for the untrained eye to see. On the outside, the adoptee might appear to be prefect: a permanent smile, high-achieving, with perfectionistic and people-pleasing tendencies. One of my patients calls herself Chameleon. This little animal able to change its appearance on cue is her mascot, also because the Chameleon originates from an island off the African coast, like her. “When I came into my new family I was five years old. They asked me if I wanted to change my name. I said yes. They asked me if I wanted to straighten my curls. I said yes…I would have said yes to anything.” And then, seeing my face slightly contorted with worry, she flashes me her brightest, most beaming smile ever.

As a parent, expect the adoptee to attach too quickly, almost too easily to you, whilst at the same time quite possibly not attaching at all. Once you become aware of this inevitable distance, it might help to undergo some therapy of your own in order to come to terms that her idea of and tolerance to intimacy might not be the same as yours. It might be incredibly painful to realise that even though she will give you the maximum that she can, she cannot, at least for now, give you what you wanted so desperately. This is especially poignant in the case of mothers who adopt. You wanted a child so much, you went through horrific physical and emotional hardship trying to become a mother, you waited for so long, now she is finally here, except that- sometimes you have a feeling deep inside your gut as if she wasn’t really here. As if…she didn’t really want to be here, but is almost too afraid of upsetting you if she admitted it.

Be patient. Give it time, lots and lots of time. Be very careful of suffocating (smothering) her. This will only create more distance. The adoptee is often like a wild untamed animal; you can put a leash around her neck and pull her close, but as soon as you loosen your grip she will run. Or, to tame the wild animal, you can put a saucer of milk within a safe distance, and wait. Eventually she will draw closer. Eventually she will mirror your smile and smile back, but when this moment comes, do not assume the rift has been repaired. If you do, and reach out to pet her, you might get bitten. Let her take the initiative in everything, and let her come to you.

Intimacy is very hard for most people, but it is excruciatingly complicated for adoptees, because of the deep abandonment wound at the core of their suffering. Yet, this wound can absolutely be healed. And once it is, it opens up a whole new world of magical delight, the joy of true human connection. One of my patients, who was adopted, (into a highly dysfunctional family at that) is now happily married and a mother of two spunky adolescents, neither of which seem to need therapy. She takes enormous pride and joy in her family, the one she created and worked hard for. This patient has many times told me that had she not suffered so much as a child, teenager and young adult, she would never be able to feel the extent of the dizzying gratitude she feels for her amazing life now. And that is what makes it all worthwhile.

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